We Asked A GI Doc Why The New Starbucks Drinks Can Give You The Runs

The combination of coffee and olive oil is giving some people diarrhea. Here's why.

Ever since Starbucks debuted its olive oil-infused coffee drinks at some U.S. stores last month, the internet has had a lot to say.

On Instagram, some commenters called the Oleato line, which includes an oat milk latte, ice-shaken espresso and golden-foam cold brew, all with a spoonful of olive oil, a “delicious combination” that “tastes so good.” Others weren’t so enthusiastic. TikTokker @bananashrooms referred to the concoction as “an oil spill on your iced coffee” and showed the drink with a layer of oil floating at the top of the cup.

A video posted by TikToker @oliver.schwartz showed him sipping on the coffee with the caption, “Me acting surprised that the olive oil cold brew from Starbucks tastes like olive oil and cold brew.”

“If I can prevent even one of my followers from buying this I will be fulfilled,” he wrote.

One commenter on the video seemed to predict the next wave of buzz: “Y’all intestines gonna be a slip and slide,” the person wrote.

Some people say that the new line is causing them to dash to the bathroom. “Half the team tried it yesterday and a few ended up … needing to use the restroom, if ya know what I mean,” a barista posted on Reddit.

“That oleato drink from starbs makin my stomach speak,” someone shared on Twitter.

Starbucks' new line of drinks contains olive oil, which may affect some people's digestive systems.
Starbucks' new line of drinks contains olive oil, which may affect some people's digestive systems.

Could the blend of olive oil and coffee — which Starbucks says creates a “velvety smooth, delicately sweet and lush coffee” with an “extraordinary new flavor and texture” — give you the runs? Starbucks declined to comment, but a gastroenterologist told us it’s entirely possible.

“This is not surprising as olive oil has been used historically for patients with constipation,” Dr. George Sanchez, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Miami, told HuffPost. “Some recommend taking a tablespoon of olive oil, which can help with bowel movements.”

Here’s why olive oil and coffee might be unsettling for your stomach and even make you poop.

Here’s how the olive oil-coffee combo can affect your digestive system.

There are several reasons Oleato drinks could get your digestive system moving.

Olive oil may have laxative properties, which can help when you’re constipated. But Sanchez said that too much of it can cause malabsorption, affecting the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and can draw water into the small bowel and colon, possibly causing diarrhea.

The caffeine in coffee can also stimulate your GI tract and amplify the response, he said. “Additionally, some consumers prefer to add milk and sugar-free alternatives to their drinks, which can also induce bowel movements,” he said.

About 30% of people say drinking coffee makes them have to poop, and many say coffee revs up their gut activity more than drinking water.

So, yes, combining olive oil and coffee is likely a recipe for the runs.

Can you consume too much olive oil?

Olive oil is considered a healthy fat, but you can consume too much of it. Sanchez said just 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil can help relieve constipation.

If you overdo it, olive oil can overwhelm the digestive system, and what you can’t absorb will pass through undigested in your stool, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Diarrhea is a side effect.

“When fat is ingested, digestive enzymes and bile help break it down and absorb it in the small intestine,” Sanchez said. “Overwhelming the digestive system with excess fat can alter this process and the excess fat will cause diarrhea known as steatorrhea.”

Steatorrhea occurs when you have too much fat in your poop — you’ll notice it when you go to the bathroom because your stool will float in the toilet. Your poop might also be pale in color and smellier than usual, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Olive oil does bring some health benefits, though.

Besides helping relieve constipation, olive oil offers many other health benefits. It has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat among edible plant oils, according to the American Heart Association, which can help lower your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease.

Olive oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, too, which also promote cardiovascular and gut health, Sanchez said.

“However,” he added, “this should be part of a balanced diet and not part of a quick fix with our morning coffee.”

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